Sadistic foster carer, 72, faces jail for torturing young children

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Sadistic foster carer, 72, faces jail for torturing young children by forcing them to eat their own vomit and shoving one boy’s face in a dirty nappy

  • Rachel Lessels, 72, found unanimously guilty by a jury of five charges of cruelty 
  • Foster carer, from Fife, subjected several children to horrifying acts of cruelty
  • Acts included pulling testicles, force-feeding vomit and attacking with her nails 


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A sadistic foster carer who tortured young children by force-feeding them vomit and shoving one boy’s face in a dirty nappy is facing jail. 

Rachel Lessels, 72, was found unanimously guilty by a jury of five charges of cruelty and assault against children over a period lasting more than three years.

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The jury at Dundee Sheriff Court had heard from her victims how they had been subjected to horrifying acts of sadistic cruelty in her care. 

One of the boys, now aged 18, told jurors during the three-day trial that he had been forced to eat his own vomit after throwing up his breakfast.

The jury also heard claims that during the incidents – relating to three children between May 2006 and July 2009 – Lessels shoved a soiled nappy in a seven-year-old boy’s face.

The court heard how the incidents came to light after one of the boy’s revealed what had been going on during a discussion with a school psychologist.

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Rachel Lessels, 72, tortured young children by force-feeding them vomit and shoving one boy's face in a dirty nappy is facing jail

Rachel Lessels, 72, tortured young children by force-feeding them vomit and shoving one boy’s face in a dirty nappy is facing jail

One victim told the trial Lessels had hurt him by pulling his testicles, forced his head into a cupboard and made him walk naked outdoors to her car.

The boy who was forced to eat his own vomit said: ‘I was eating a bowl of porridge. I threw it back up into the bowl.. I don’t know why I threw it up but Rachel told me I had to eat it.

‘I was crying and then Rachel took out this leaflet saying that the social work would take me away if I didn’t eat it.’

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Fiscal depute Marie Lyons asked the witness why he had gone through with the disgusting act of eating the vomit and he replied: ‘I was scared.’

The teenager, who was staying at Lessels’ home in Letham, Cupar, Fife, told the jury that he had also been forced to watch on as his brother was attacked by Lessels.

He said: ‘I remember one time she dug her nails into my brother’s skin and ear. She had really long, pointy nails and dug them into his arms and his ear.’

The court was also told that one child had their head forced under water in a bath and held for a period of time by 72-year-old Lessels. He desrcibed the incident as ‘absolutely terrifying.’

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Lessels was found guilty of wilfully ill-treating a boy on various occasions between 19 May 2006 and 16 October 2008 by shouting at him and forcing him to stand for long periods.

She was found guilty of attacking the same boy – who was aged between seven and nine – by seizing his head and force-feeding him vomit with a fork.

The jury also found her guilty of force-feeding vomit to a second boy, aged six, during a course of ill-treatment lasting between 20 May and 10 July 2009. She made this child stand for long periods and acted aggressively towards him.

She was found guilty of attacking the same boy by seizing his neck and arms.

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The jury at Dundee Sheriff Court had heard from her victims how they had been subjected to horrifying acts of sadistic cruelty in her care

The jury at Dundee Sheriff Court had heard from her victims how they had been subjected to horrifying acts of sadistic cruelty in her care

Lessels was also found guilty of cruelty towards his younger brother, who was aged just two, by forcing him to stand for long periods of time during the summer of 2009.

The trial was told that Lessels had been a foster carer to dozens of children at her home in Fife between the mid-2000s and 2017 when the allegations were first reported.

Defence counsel Mark Moir QC highlighted excerpts from social work reports which noted the children were happy and making good progress with Lessels.

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Lessels told the trial she had ‘loved’ looking after children but was happier with young babies than older children.

She claimed one of the victims was a ‘liar and bully’ and told jurors that the child ‘was very difficult to get on with.’

She said: ‘They used to hit me, kick me and bully me and say they were going to tell their mum that I did this and that to them.’

However, the jury rejected her version of events and found her guilty of five of the six charges she faced on indictment. A not proven verdict was returned on the final charge of scratching the toddler.

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Sheriff Paul Brown deferred sentence for reports and released Lessels on bail, but warned her that she should not ready anything into being granted her freedom pre-sentence.

He said: ‘You have no previous convictions and have never been sent to prison before. All sentencing options are open to me.’

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